Attention to Detail

As a creative professional, you’re probably married to the details of your work. I’ve seen photographers obsess over a farkle on a thingamabob that no one will notice, except the photographer. That’s good. You should want to make your best work. I only wish you could take some of that energy and apply it to the business side of your business.

Specifically, that attention to detail is very much necessary when it comes to your copyright registrations. Being sloppy in your registrations can really bite you in the ass later… trust me, I’ve seen it. And it’s heartbreaking. One of the first things a defendant or potential defendant in an infringement case will do, if s/he’s got an attorney with half a brain, is try to find an error in the registration. If the registration is broken, boom, case is dead.

Here is a list of some of the common errors you should avoid:

  • mixing published and unpublished work
  • not providing the date or range of dates of publication for published works
  • registering work that has already been registered, because of sloppy record-keeping about what you have/have not registered
  • registering work that has already been registered because you made a mistake the first time (in that case contact the Copyright Office and inform them of the error rather than trying to register the work again)
  • naming someone (usually a spouse or business partner) as a co-author when s/he did not contribute to the work
  • not registering the work as a work made for hire if you shot it as an employee of your own company (and want the registration held by your company)
  • for group registrations, not including under the heading Previous or Alternative Titles the words “Group Registration” and the number of photographs, for example Group Registration: Photos; approx. 450 photographs.

Now, for some of those errors, making one won’t likely kill the registration all by itself, but it could and some will. For example, registering published work with unpublished (as “unpublished”) will invalidate the registration for the published work. If you make multiple errors, you could be in big trouble. No one wants to get waist deep in litigation only to have the whole thing blow up because you couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the details.

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